The pace of life

I maintain a fairly busy life, but it is not as busy since my retirement in 2020. These days I work half time and i go to the office only three days in a typical week. There are a few additional meetings, phone calls, Zoom gatherings, and emails outside of work hours, but I have time each week for my personal and home repair projects. There were times in my life when I was a lot busier, balancing home and a demanding professional career. I had lots of long days, evening meetings, on call responses in the middle of the night and missed days off. In a way, I think I may have set a poor example for our children. It was, however, a very good life and I thoroughly enjoyed being involved and busy. Church work is rewarding work and helping people has always felt like a good investment of my time.

Our son and his family have very busy lives. To begin with they have four children. I know that we felt overwhelmed with only two children at times. Four is a lot of work! Then there is the simple fact that our son works 45 miles away from their family home, which means commuting time in addition to a busy professional life with its share of evening meetings and long days. Add to that the fact that his wife Allison is a private practice mental health therapist. She works at her practice part time, seeing clients only on Saturdays, but those days are often 12-hour days without a break as she sees as many people as possible. In addition there is plenty of paper work, including scheduling, insurance claims, and billing concerns, that needs to be done during the week. It also means that on Saturdays, our son is primary care giver for four children. During the rest of the week, our daughter-in-law manages schedules, juggles appointments, provides meals and health care for the children.

On the side, both have plenty of farm chores. Chickens need to be fed and watered every day. In the spring, summer, and fall there is plenty of grass to mow. A one-hundred-year-old farm house is in need of constant repair. And four children have their share of projects. While they help with household chores there are limits and their chores frequently need adult supervision.

The only day each week when the whole family is at home is Sunday and that day is often filled with social events, visiting friends, and entertaining the nearly constant stream of folks who come by to see the farm, friends who come to play with the children, and family events.

I get tired just thinking of all of it. We try to help where we are able. I enjoy farm chores and since I keep bees at the farm, I am there nearly every day and I can help with repairs, mowing, and other chores. In place of going to the gym for exercise, I find fixing fence, chopping firewood, tossing bales and walking around the farm to be my preferred way of working out. To help with the juggle of life for the kids, I often give the oldest child a ride to and from school on Thursdays. I usually have plenty of errands to run and it works pretty well for me to drop him off at school and continue to the grocery store for a weekly stock-up.

Last week there was a birthday in the family, which meant a party with a lot of children on Sunday afternoon and a family dinner, which included us, on Tuesday evening. By the time I arrived on Thursday to pick up our grandson for school, everyone was dragging a bit. Their mother had to make repeated trips up and down the stairs to keep urging children to stay on task getting dressed and ready for school. The breakfasts were set out and the household was in motion, but moving a bit more slowly than usual. the twelve-year-old took multiple reminders to stay on the tasks of getting dressed, eating breakfast, assembling his school materials and such. It was the last minute when I finally got him into the car after he had to run back into the house to pick up a school item he had forgotten. Then he had to be reminded to fasten his seatbelt. He was a bit distracted.

When I arrived, the baby was on the kitchen floor, stacking pots and pans from a nearby cupboard. I look at him a couple of minutes later and he was sleeping face down on the floor. He had only a cat nap before another child woke him, but you could see he was tired. Later, while his mother ran a few errands, he took time to rock with Grandpa at our house and I think we both dozed off.

Their family system amazes me, but there is no surprise that people were tired at their house this week. On her birthday the six-year old was excited and bouncing. After a dinner of her requested menu of burritos, chips and salsa, beans and rice and vegetables, presents were opened. The big gift was a pedal bicycle which immediately went out into the yard for many trips back and forth to try it out. Then it was inside for cake, which was a sculpture of macaroons enjoyed by all. After blowing out her candle and enjoying the sweet treats she wanted to start a sewing project that had been one of her gifts. Grandma is the chief sewing instructor in the family and she was assisting but after making only a single stitch it was apparent that the birthday girl was too tired to finish. She next wanted to start building a lego set that she received, but after putting together the first two bricks there was simply no more energy. She put her head on the table and closed her eyes. Six years is a time of an incredible amount of energy, but even she has limits and it becomes time for sleep.

This weekend with Memorial Day is a much-needed respite for the family. The extra day off will be appreciated by all. Children spring back quickly when they get a bit of extra sleep. I’ll be at the farm as much as I can on Saturday and Monday to help catch up on chores.

I feel incredibly lucky to live so close and to be able to witness all of the fun of their family life. I’m grateful that the pace of my life has slowed a bit, but I enjoy being around to watch it all.

Still, I don’t feel bad when I take a lazy evening at home, sit and read in my recliner, or out on the back deck, or just sit on the front porch rocking back and forth in the glider. I don’t need the constant busy activities that once filled my days. Sometimes I wonder about how it will be for my son when he reaches my age. So far there are no signs of him slowing down, but I hope he finds a way to a slightly slower pace someday. Going slow certainly has its joys. I’ve no need to speed up the pace for now.

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